As many of you know, my mother passed away this past week. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to share this or not, but after getting several requests from friends and family, I figured I would. Earlier this summer, when we thought we were going to lose her at that time, my mom had asked me to give the eulogy for her memorial service. Trust me…this was a VERY tough assignment! Our family is grateful for all of the kind words, prayer, and encouragement we received during this time. Thank you all so much.
Kathleen “Kay” Smith
After a life full of laughter, faith and courage, my mom, Kay Smith, went to eternal rest on September 24th, 2013, just 2 days shy of her 67th birthday.
In September of 1946, my mom was the second child born to Don and Betty MacPherson. When mom was just a couple of years old, my granddad and grandma moved into the home at 3004 E Sanson, where they would remain pretty much the rest of their lives. Following my mom, were 6 more sisters, 8 girls in all, and 4 brothers, one of whom passed on soon after he was born, and all of them jammed into that small yellow home in Hillyard.
She always knew how to get people to laugh, even if at one of her brothers’ expense. One of my favorite stories is hearing of how they used to go camping, many times at Riverside State Park and when my Uncle Varmit would begin to gingerly cross the suspension bridge, my mom would rock the bridge back and forth, knowing how scared he would get. She knew she was going to get whooped once he got to the other side, but no matter, it was worth watching him panic and getting the rest of the family to laugh.
My mom went through St. Patrick’s Catholic school, same as my sister and I, and then went on to the Catholic all-girl Marycliff High School.
Mom was always fascinated by art. She made pottery, painted, doodled, sketched, and in college, studied the subject. Her first commissioned piece of art was the “logo” for the Hillyard Hell Cat gang that she helped form with the help of her gang-banging brothers. They even made cards, with her logo on it, and the way my Uncle John tells the story, being a member of that gang and carrying the card were proud moments.
One day in the early 1970s, my dad went to Spokane Community College to pick up his sister, Doreen from her art class. One of Doreen’s classmates was Kay MacPherson and my folks were introduced to each other on that day. Upon meeting, my dad is convinced he heard a quiet voice encouraging him to ask her out. It took a while for my dad to get the courage to do so, but he finally did, and they went out to see the Coal Miner’s Daughter at the old Dishman Cinema for their first date. They went out on a couple more dates but then went their separate ways for a couple of years. Finally, in early 1974, my dad picked up the phone and called her again, inviting her to Mass where he served with the Bishop. After mass, she waited outside the church to catch up. My dad’s grandfather, suggested he ask her out, as he could tell that she was a “sensible girl.” Soon after, my dad proposed, for the second time, and my mom said “Yes please.”
After a simple ceremony at St. Thomas Catholic chapel in Coeur d’Alene my parents were married. Nine months later, I showed up and eleven months after that, my Irish twin, Molly was born.
My mom worked very hard to give us a great childhood. While my dad worked at night, my mom provided us a fantastic life. She always was feeding us healthy food, slipping wheat germ and wheat bran into our pancakes before it was in vogue. She was always careful about what kind of music we were listening to and what TV shows and movies we watched, and during the summers, keeping Molly and I outside. We had to keep quiet because my dad was sleeping during the day. We spent hours at the Hillyard parks and swimming pools, and my mom would take us to the Magic Lantern Movie Theater, along with several of our cousins to watch a movie and would give us each a dollar so we could get the movie combo, a small boxed popcorn, a soda, and our choice of a butterfinger, baby ruth, or sweet tart! We would also take day trips to Post Falls or Coeur d’Alene lake, also with many of our cousins, to swim and picnic. These times with my mom are some of my very best memories as a child.
My moms siblings and extended family always found reasons to get together. Such a large family meant many holiday parties, picnics, and pot lucks. Loaded with food, these events were special to my mom. Early on she would play volleyball and other games, but found the most joy in sitting, and eating, and visiting, and laughing with her siblings, in-laws and anyone else that showed up to these Mac Attacks. When I was younger, her “go to” dish was a potato salad. I remember asking her much later about it and the source of her secret to making such a perfect potato salad, she paused, chuckled to herself and proceeded to tell me that her tasty potato salad was simply adding pickles to the one found in the Betty Crocker cookbook! In later years, she replaced the potato salad with her macaroni salad that she would always bring in a huge tub, to every event, summer or winter, and there was never any left! It was that good!
Some of our very best memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases all have my mom at the center of our thoughts. She not only loved the laughter and visiting, but always looked forward to playing board games, cards, and Scrabble with anyone that wanted to play, and was especially competitive with a few of her sisters!
OK lets pause a moment and reflect. Sure, she loved her husband, my sister and I, and of course her siblings, but c’mon, let’s get serious…the ones she enjoyed talking about, to, and being with, were her grandsons. Since 1999 when her first grandson Nate was born, followed by Austin, Jackson, and Lochlan, my mom LOVED being a grandmother…sorry…I mean…Granny. She had a granny and she wanted to be a granny. My sons love her and she loved them. Random gifts, lots of hugs and kisses, and attending as many of their activities as she could, Granny loved spending time with her “boys” as she called them. These “clowns” brought her so much laughter and entertainment. From Jackson playing Kings Corner with her at her table, to vacationing in Disneyland, to regular trips to the lake with Pepa, when we would talk daily, she would always ask about her boys whom she loved so much.
As Molly and I got older, my mom slowly got back into the workforce. Starting at St. Margaret’s Hall and then spending about 15 years as both a housekeeper and a nurse’s aid at Sacred Heart, my mom worked very hard, first to pay for my sister and I’s education at Gonzaga Prep, and then to help pay for extra things she and my dad agreed upon. My mom also gave. She was more than just a faithful tither, she gave freely to any event, missionary, or special offering at her church. She volunteered her time by working on special art and craft projects, banners and flags, and spent many summers and Wednesday nights cooking for young people at camps and in the community.
My mom’s faith was the centerpiece to her life. Growing up at St. Patrick’s church, and school, my mom developed a deeply personal relationship with God, and in the 1970s, that faith was lit on fire. Faith was a big part of her and my dad coming together as well. They had a strong connection with each other and their relationship with their Creator. Described by both my mom and my dad as some of the happiest times of their lives, they were involved in the Lord of Love group, a charismatic catholic community at St. Aloysius church that held weekly prayer meetings on Friday nights in the Gonzaga U chapel. When many members of this community moved to Minneapolis, my folks felt that God wanted them to stay here in Spokane. Soon after, my mom found a new spiritual home where she worshipped the rest of her life, Zion Christian Center. Attending church with many of her family members, Zion was the place where her faith began to really grow. Bible studies, small groups, and the preaching, were something that she always looked forward to each week, even when her little brother was the preacher. But, in my opinion, where I believe she connected with God consistently, reverently, and with transparency, was in the same black chair she sat at every day in the kitchen of her home. This was where she read her Bible, wrote out scriptures, meditated on that week’s sermons, reflected on her notes, journaled, and prayed. This was part of her routine, even up until she went to the hospital for good in early July. I remember hearing a sermon about there being “open heavens” over places where people consistently connected with God and I have to believe that there is an open heaven right above that black chair in my parents’ home.
My mom will be remembered for many things including laughter, the ability to make anyone feel comfortable and welcome, and of course being everyone’s favorite. She was a woman of 1000 faces, reacting, responding, and being dramatic any chance she could. She played the role of an English aristrocrat better than anyone I know and many times my sister and I asked if she was born in the wrong time period and the wrong socio-economic status.
Later in life, her humor would be channeled through the hilarious greeting cards, which I am sure you will see represented in the photos today, that she and Makancy members Aunt Mawgie, Aunt Nancy, and Karen, would sell at fairs and craft shows throughout the area.
But one thing that many of us will ultimately remember her for the most, I feel, is her courage. My mom had a great life, not perfect, but with her quiet strength, she fought, resisted, and hung in there until the very end. She battled heart issues for over 15 years, and in 2008 beat non-hodgkins lymphoma. She cried with us, laughed with us, and shared all of our favorite memories but above all, she persevered with great courage. We all love you so much mom.